Hello again everyone! In the second part of this series, I’m going to cover the important cards in Standard with converted mana costs of two and three. Due to popular request, I’ll try to keep it to cards that I feel will have a relevant change in effectiveness.
Ancient Grudge: A must have in sideboards. Should remain that way: There are plenty of times where the Tempered Steel decks crush those that lax on the artifact hate. I’m hopeful that people will finally learn their lesson in the near future, especially if Swords and Pikes continue to be as powerful as they are.
Arc Trail: Underplayed and underrated. Will have more upside: Having an Arc Trail against the more aggressive decks on the play is very powerful. At worst, you soften the blow from a turn one Champion of the Parish into a turn two Gather the Townsfolk, which isn’t that bad at all. Red aggro decks could use more two for ones, and Arc Trail does just that in most cases.
Celestial Purge: Currently decent. May fluctuate: Being able to deal with a Liliana of the Veil or Inferno Titan is pretty huge in the current Standard format. I don’t see either of those cards being huge factors in the near future. If that holds true, then Celestial Purge may drop in effectiveness. With that said, being able to deal with Phyrexian Obliterator, Gravecrawler, and Hellrider will be pretty important.
Combust: Slightly below average. Will get worse: I don’t really see Combust being as effective as it used to be. While it’s very effective at dealing with a Hero of Bladehold, Dismember accomplishes the same role, while also effectively handling a Phyrexian Obliterator and creatures wielding a Sword of War and Peace (among other threats). The life loss from Dismember isn’t as much of a drawback anymore, and a lot of decks simply can’t afford an increasingly narrow answer to the bigger threats of the format.
Doom Blade: Pretty average right now. Go for the Throat may take its place: With the rise of black aggro decks, I don’t think Doom Blade will be favored over cards like Go for the Throat. Dealing with Inkmoth Nexus isn’t nearly as big of a chore due to Tragic Slip. Wurmcoil Engine isn’t a huge issue. Grave Titan is probably the tipping point for picking Go for the Throat over Doom Blade.
Elite Inquisitor: May be a very solid role player soon: Being able to protect yourself from an opposing Gravecrawler, Diregraf Captain, and Huntmaster of the Fells is nothing to overlook, and Elite Inquisitor just may be what you’re looking for if you’re in the market for the sort. The combination of First Strike and Vigilance is very powerful, and fits goal of the U/W Humans archetype (early threats that have distinct advantages in combat).
Go for the Throat: Is much better than Doom Blade at the moment, and will continue to be: While it isn’t making Doom Blade obsolete, it’s pretty easy to see why Go for the Throat is favored over it. With that said, I can see cards like Wurmcoil Engine improving a lot if people are leaning too much on this.
Grand Abolisher: Underrated right now. Future is uncertain: With Thalia, Guardian of Thraben entering the world of awesome two drops for the Human archetype, times are a bit tough for Grand Abolisher. Angelic Destiny gains a lot more value and safety with Grand Abolisher, and Destiny is much better when you don’t have to worry about countermagic or a removal spell at instant speed. It comes down to how reactive the format becomes, and if the upside of having this duo is worth losing Thalia’s ability to punish your opponent’s awkward, greedy, and reactive hands.
Invisible Stalker: Has been on the decline recently, and may continue: The problem with the Stalker is the same as it’s always been; It hardly does much of anything without something to pump it. Gerry Thompson recently brought up Spectral Flight as an option for decks with Invisible Stalker, and as much as I don’t prefer relying on cards like that to get me through a game, it’s a very legitimate strategy that could see more play in the near future. Even so, I still think its popularity will decrease due to how hostile the field may become toward equipment.
Leonin Relic-Warder: May be on the decline due to lack of room in its archetype: Competing with Thalia, Loyal Cathar, and Gather the Townsfolk is pretty tough for the Relic-Warder nowadays. I don’t know if it will continue to see as much play as it has been, mainly due to how effective Thalia and Gather the Townsfolk will continue to be. It can be pretty awkward against some of the decks that lean heavily on equipment as well (R/G aggro and stock Delver decks), since they have such efficient ways of answering it (Vapor Snag, Galvanic Blast, among others).
Loyal Cathar: Very well positioned. Should improve slightly: Loyal Cathar is one of the (many) reasons why the Humans deck has so much resilience, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him more in the near future, especially against opposing Whipflares, Slagstorms, and Days of Judgment. I think he’ll see even more play if Swords begin to fall out of favor.
Mortarpod: Slightly above average. Will improve greatly: Delver of Secrets, Gravecrawler, Inkmoth Nexus, Strangleroot Geist (sort of), Thalia, Stromkirk Noble. All of these creatures eat a Mortarpod in an ideal situation. This also has incredible synergy with Gravecrawler. My only issue is its effectiveness may be drastically lowered due to some of these creatures getting increasingly resilient to it (Delver, Stromkirk Noble, Champion of the Parish, and Strangleroot Geist stand out the most). Even so, having this as a line of defense against the really fast starts in the format is very helpful.
Ratchet Bomb: Great when paired with Glissa, the Traitor. Otherwise, slightly overrated: The combo hasn’t been as effective lately, primarily due to the varying mana costs of the major threats in the format. Being able to rebuy a Ratchet Bomb for “free” is nothing to overlook. Outside of that, however, I don’t think it’s going to remain very effective against an open field. There are too many recurring, large, and resilient threats for me to justify playing too many. I also feel that there are more direct answers that don’t require you to work as hard. It’s not that I think it’s bad, it’s just I wouldn’t want to play too many of these as a “catch all”.
Shrine of Burning Rage: Not as threatening as it used to be, but may see more play: Could Shrine of Burning Rage be the extra push that R/G aggro and Wolf Run decks need? If U/B control continues to slow down the format, then I can definitely see it. Even if you can’t charge the shrine as fast as a mono red deck, it’s still a serious clock that they have to deal with. In R/G aggro’s case, being able to copy a Shrine with Phyrexian Metamorph is pretty effective as well. Currently, the Wolf Run archetype needs a facelift, and I can definitely see adding a couple of these as a “set it and forget it” type of threat.
Beast Within: Very underplayed: Beast Within fell out of favor because of how fast and resilient the format was, especially with Humans, Delver, and Tempered Steel running around. Now is the most opportune time to play these in the maindeck of Wolf Run archetypes, especially when paired with Slagstorm or Black Sun’s Zenith. At worst, being able to ground a threatening flying creature is relevant. At best, you can punish opponents that keep land light hands, or rely too heavily on a single threat. I expect this to be played more in the near future.
Daybreak Ranger: Still decent, but may get slightly worse: A resolved Daybreak Ranger on turn two can be completely devastating for a lot of decks that aren’t prepared for it, as it can turn a bad situation into a manageable one. A turn three Daybreak Ranger, however, isn’t as exciting as a lot of other things you can do on that turn. If the format becomes more hostile toward mana dorks, then this may drop in effectiveness overall.
Dismember: Is improving. Should continue to do so: Dismember was a huge liability before, mainly due to how much the aggro decks punished you for paying four life. That isn’t so much of an issue now. Some decks need a way to deal with things like Hero of Bladehold, Phyrexian Obliterator, Sword of War and Peace, and other major threats, and this is a way of doing it.
Geist of Saint Traft: Fluctuating, will be on the decline: Geist has been pretty off and on recently, most notably during the short rise of the Esper Spirits archetype. It has improved a bit since, only to seemingly fall slightly because of how many things sit in its way. Granted, in some matchups (U/B control, and some of the other slower decks), it can carry the game by itself, but I feel that this trend will continue for a little bit, until finally dropping a bit more in effectiveness, especially if Phyrexian Metamorphs and Phantasmal Images continue to be as good as they are.
Geralf’s Messenger: One of the best three drops in the format, and will continue to get better: This card is a problem, and many archetypes aren’t able to solve it right now. The amount of pressure this puts you under is overwhelming, and there just isn’t an easy way to deal with it right now. I used to be a huge advocate for Red Sun’s Zenith early in the format, since it was very effective at dealing with things like this. Maybe it’s time to give it another look, since it not only deals with Messenger, but Gravecrawler as well. I expect the Messenger, and the zombies archetype in general, to get better and better in the coming weeks.
Glissa, the Traitor: See Ratchet Bomb: Do note that Glissa is a Zombie, which may open up some technology in the future.
Liliana of the Veil: Mostly awkward without backup. Will probably wind up in sideboards in the short term: Liliana against a Huntmaster of the Fells, Gather the Townsfolk, or Strangleroot Geist is pretty unimpressive, and I expect cards like those to get better and better. Liliana is still very effective at taking complete control of the game once she gets going, and she will be an all-star out of the board when playing against decks that allow her to do it.
Porcelain Legionnaire: Underplayed outside of Delver decks. Should drastically improve. Mono Green, Zombies, R/G Aggro, and to a lesser extent, Humans, are all viable places to put Porcelain Legionnaire. Having such an aggressive two drop is pretty important, and I think this is a fine addition alongside Strangleroot Geists, and a great addition to your Zombies deck (that could use some effective threats at the two spot).
Sword of Feast and Famine: Solid now. Should improve some. This fell slightly out of favor due to how devastating a Sword of War and Peace was on turn two, or on a Geist of Saint Traft. While that’s still a very effective strategy (and will continue to be), Sword of Feast and Famine is just as effective against Wolf Run and zombie strategies. Yes, the zombie strategy plays Gravecrawler, but how often are they going to have Gravecrawlers in their hand by the time you start connecting with it? I particularly like this Sword in decks that are looking to maximize the use of Lingering Souls. Always having a creature to equip this to is very powerful.
Sword of War and Peace: Better than Sword of Feast and Famine now, but will shift soon. I’m not too sold on Sword of War and Peace maintaining its ridiculous amounts of effectiveness in the near future. That’s primarily because I think Dismember’s gradual improvement. Outside of the R/G aggro decks, I feel that it will be brought down from a “jam as many as I can and destroy the white/unprepared decks” card, to a “play a couple for versatility’s sake” card, which is still pretty awesome in my view.
That’s it for part two of this three part series. In the final installment, I will cover the important cards from converted mana costs four through seven. Thanks for reading!
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